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Advances - December 2023

by Australian Book Review
December 2023, no. 460

Advances - December 2023

by Australian Book Review
December 2023, no. 460

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

After the delays and idiosyncrasies of last year, including a detour to Launceston, it was good to see the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards back where they surely belong – in Canberra, at the National Library of Australia.

The ceremony took place on 16 November. With the recent transferral of responsibility for the PMLAs to Creative Australia, authors and publishers booksellers might reasonably hope that in coming years the composition of the six shortlists (Fiction, Poetry, Non-Fiction, Australian History, Young Adult Literature, and Children’s Literature) – and the winners (each of whom receives $80,000) – will be known earlier than that, giving hard-pressed booksellers due time to sell lots of copies in the lead-up to Christmas. ‘Result happiness.’

Hearty congratulations to the six winners: Jessica Au’s Cold Enough for Snow (Fiction); Sam Vincent’s My Father and Other Animals (Non-Fiction); Gavin Yuan Gao’s At the Altar of Touch (Poetry), Shannyn Palmer’s Unmaking Angas Downs (Australian History); Sarah Winifred Searle’s The Greatest Thing (Young Adult Literature); and Jasmine Seymour’s Open Your Heart to Country (Children’s Literature).


Remembering Ian Donaldson

Everyone at ABR and many of its readers fondly recall Ian Donaldson (1935–2020), a stalwart of the magazine following his return to Australia in the early 2000s, and one of the finest literary scholars this country has produced. Ian was Professor of English at the Australian National University and the University of Cambridge, and Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He wrote for the magazine on twenty occasions – reviews and essays of lapidary suavity. Following his death in early 2020, we wrote: ‘Anyone who knew Ian was struck by his charm, his modesty, his erudition, and his phenomenal range of friends and associates. He was a model of intellectual generosity and leadership. His contribution to this magazine was second to none.’

Ian also served on the ABR Board from 2008 to 2017. In 2011, he delivered the ABR Fiftieth Birthday Lecture at the National Library of Australia. His subject on that occasion, fittingly, was ‘Ben Jonson’s Double Life’. His magnum opus, Ben Jonson: A life, appeared that year, followed in 2012 by the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson, of which Ian was a General Editor.

Ian took his first degree at the University of Melbourne and remained a valued member of the community for the rest of his life. Now the University has created the Ian Donaldson Memorial Lecture, to be inaugurated by Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of College and the 2023 Sam Wanamaker Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Her subject is ‘Shakespeare’s Magic (Play)houses: Stage Directions and the Editor’.

The Lecture itself, at the University, on 14 December, has sold out, but Shakespearians, Jonsonians, and Donaldsonians can follow it online:



The ABR team will take a well-earned break after Christmas. The office will close on Friday, 22 December and reopen on Tuesday, 2 January, which is when we will publish our January-February double issue. Best wishes to all our readers, subscribers, writers, and Patrons.


Changes at ABR

Grace Chang will leave ABR in mid-December after ten years as Business Manager. Rather like me, when Grace joined ABR she expected to spend two years with the organisation. Look what happens!

Grace has made a notable contribution to the magazine during a decade of expansion. The Business Manager is very much the public face of ABR, fielding calls from stakeholders of all sorts. Grace has filled this role with aplomb – courteous, engaged, and so very patient! I sometimes think that Grace must know at least half of the ABR community – writers, subscribers, donors, prize entrants, etc.

Personally, I have always enjoyed working with Grace. Managing a small arts organisation is never straightforward. Roofs leak, birds fly through open windows, the internet fails, pandemics happen. In March 2020, all of us suddenly faced unprecedented upheavals and threats. Throughout lockdowns, Covid, and personal challenges, I appreciated Grace’s steadfastness and consummate professionalism. Ironically, ABR came through those horrors in better shape than ever – thanks to esprit de corps and a shared sense of ABR’s importance to our literary culture.

Everyone at ABR – staff, volunteers, Board members past and present, our Treasurer Peter McLennan and Development Consultant Christopher Menz (both of whom work closely with the Business Manager) – joins me in thanking Grace.

Rosemary Blackney joins ABR as the new Business Manager. Rosemary has extensive business, financial, and administrative experience.

Welcome, Rosemary, and farewell, Grace!

Peter Rose

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